There’s an argument to be made about Phil Jackson’s worst move as president of the Knicks, but any list would have to include the signing of Joakim Noah last summer for $72MM over four years.
Even Noah feels bad about it, blaming himself for Jackson’s firing. He virtually apologized in comments reported today by Marc Berman of The New York Post.
“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson.’’
Noah’s first season in New York was a disappointment, but it was hardly a surprise. He was plagued by injuries and declining production during his final two years in Chicago, so no one could be shocked that in his first year with the Knicks he got hurt and his numbers went down.
Physical problems limited him to just 46 games last year and he was almost shut down for the year after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in February. He only returned late in the season to trim eight games off a 20-game suspension imposed for using a substance banned by the NBA.
Noah’s performance on the court was just as frustrating as the things that kept him off of it. His scoring average dipped to 5.0 points per game, the worst of his career except for a 29-game season in 2015/16, and he took a career-low 4.4 shots per game.
Noah still has three seasons and $55MM left on his contract, so the Knicks are going to be stuck with him as an anchor on their cap unless they can find a way to include him in a trade. It’s a move that’s going to haunt the franchise for a long time, and there weren’t any obvious suitors that Jackson was bidding against to force such a generous offer.
But is signing Noah the main reason Jackson got fired? Or was it his long public feud with Carmelo Anthony, his attempt to trade Kristaps Porzingis after he skipped an exit meeting, his unbridled love affair with the triangle offense or the Knicks’ lousy play in general? In short, does Noah owe Jackson an apology or would the Zen Master have gotten dismissed regardless?
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